A Clairon Call For All
It was shocking to see the ‘renovations’ including extension patterns applied to our signs and symbols of spiritual-cultural heritage locations
DR. RIYAZ PUNJABI
This has reference to Mr. M. Saleem Beigh’s review (A Wake-up Call,Greater Kashmir, July 1st,2012) relating to the present state of affairs of our spiritual-cultural heritage sites particularly in Kashmir valley.
He has rightly observed that special care and a professional approach and management are needed to conserve and preserve our heritage sites. At the outset, let us place on record our appreciation for the initiatives undertaken by the J&K INTACH Chapter in not only recording and documenting our heritage sites across the J&K state, but equally raising our consciousness, particularly among our younger generation, towards the preservation and conservation of our heritage sites in their pristine form.
It needs to be recognized that our living and dwelling patterns have drastically transformed during the last three or four decades. The over reliance on electric and electronic gadgets has increased dictating a professional and expert handling of these devices. However, this handling, particularly in the case of our heritage sites, cannot be left to technocrats and engineers alone; they have to work under the watchful eyes of heritage conservationists and experts of Kashmir’s cultural history.
These experts have to be experienced persons with the knowledge of archeology, anthropology, environment and lore of Kashmir. Their engagement is not merely a need but it is a desideratum to save our symbols of spiritual and cultural identity.
We are no more living in the times when a Khwoja ( term for a well-off person of the locality, perhaps originated from Central Asia) would donate a couple of dozen candles or send a kilogram or two of cooking oil to keep the earthen lamps alight to keep these sacred locations illuminated). The more resourceful Khwojas would donate a quintal or two of firewood to keep the Hammam (a specific space in a mosque or the shrine where an underground dungeon would be prepared to place the firewood and burn it to keep the surface above, warm; again a Central Asian innovation which with local modifications becameindigenous to Kashmir). In later times,Khwojasstarted donating expensive rugs and upholstery items, and electronic gadgets particularly halogen lights (a replacement of candles and earthen lamps). These donations would be acknowledged publicly through microphones on specific occasions indicating the devotion and concern of the devout Khwojas.
The generosity of these devotees has needed expert hands to accommodate these donations, which has been generally absent from the management and upkeep arrangements of these holy sites. This apathy is visible in all these sites across the J&K state in general and Kashmir valley in particular. This indifference may be attributed to many an accident in our heritage sites.
Be that as it may, it was shocking to see the ‘renovations’ including extension patterns applied to our signs and symbols of spiritual-cultural heritage locations. It was a disturbing sight to see that the open space outside the tomb of our revered saint Sheikh Hamzah Makhdoom popularly known as Makhdoom Sahib has been covered so shabbily that the glory, grandeur and entire ambience of the shrine has been destroyed.
No one is aware whether it was done at the behest of a Civilian khwoja or a Sarkari khwoja; the apathy is profound. We do not attribute motives; may be the intentions were right but the long-term consequences deserve a serious consideration. (May the Almighty reward these ‘devout ‘ souls for their contributions).
It is equally a fact that with the rising population, the number of devotees visiting our shrines has increased considerably, and there are persistent demands to enlarge the facilities in these places. However, a great care has to be taken in maintaining the historical and traditional ambience of these sites.
A Look Inward:
The foregoing analysis, which is specific to heritage conservation, prods us towards another direction in examining and critically analyzing our changing dwelling patterns. We are facing a grave energy deficit, which has assumed the proportions of a crisis.
However, not much attention is being paid to comprehend the basic source of this crisis, which is closely linked to our changing dwelling patterns. For the last three to four decades we have taken recourse to a wanton and unecessary utilization of cement and iron and steel in constructing our dwelling places.
This architectural pattern is not in harmony with the typical climatic and environmental conditions of Kashmir. Many a splendid mansions in Srinagar city for instance, in Zaina Kadal, Mahraj Gunj, Gojwara, Nowhatta, Nawa Kadal, etc, which may be designated as heritage buildings have been constructed in our traditional composition of mud, brick and wood.
These structures are resistant to cold weather, apart from being in harmony with our environment.
This pattern has been equally followed by people of all the sections of society. Kashmiris, rich and poor, all are conscious to have a proper and efficient dwelling place to live in accordance with the climate and environment. It is a marvel to see such structures also existing in Western European countries like Switzerland, France, Vienna, Belgium etc.
Their architects have used modern gadgetry in the interiors of these dwelling places without compromising their traditional architectures.
Moreover, these countries are abound in resources like electric, solar and thermal energy which keeps their homes, places of work and shops, warm enough and enables them to meet the challenges of harsh winters. It is not possible for us to reach that level of sufficiency. We have to be conscious that the seasons in Kashmir have been categorized in three phases, Sonth (Spring), Harud(Autumn) and Vanda (Winter).
In fact, spring and autumn seasons are the extensions of winter season except that the temperature does not go down to horrible levels. We use the generic term Reta koul to indicate a season without snow which would include, spring and autumn both. The concept of summer is absent in our calendar of seasons. It is in this context that our patriarchs had adopted a dwelling pattern, which would make their lives less miserable, at least on account of climatic conditions.
It may be recalled that the first monolith of cement and concrete was built by the great builder of modern Kashmir, Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad, in the form of what is known as Secretariat in Srinagar. From a social and political science perspective, it seems that the idea of raising this structure was to create an awe signifying ‘a great seat of power’. We have no documentary evidence, but it is believed that some non-Kashmiri Kashmir lovers confronted Bakhshi Sahib about the non-compatibility of the structure with the ambience of environmental specificity of Kashmir. The ironical consequence of this first breach of environmental and architectural fundamentals of Kashmir has been laying down a pattern, which is being followed in raising private, public and governmental structures. Government officials take refuge during harsh winters and operate from Jammu but average mortals like us have to face the onslaught and watch helplessly, the frozen Dal Lake and meditate during nights without electricity. It is equally an irony that our architects are trained in the plains of India and they carry the inputs from their training and juxtapose them in Kashmir. Their genius would lie in modifying their knowledge and expertise to suit our climatic conditions. However, in addition we, as a social entity, have to get rid off the side effects of amphetamine of aping and copying, which is the bane of our many a social and existential problems.
(The Author is the former Vice Chancellor, University of Kashmir. He is the first Asian awardee of the European Socrates Award and is the Hony. Professor, University of Vienna.)
Lastupdate on : Sat, 7 Jul 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 7 Jul 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 8 Jul 2012 00:00:00 IST
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